Jazz Ensemble Holiday Jingle Jam

John-Shaw Moazami, Staff Writer

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It’s that time of year again—snow is beginning to fall as the temperature drops, holiday songs are playing on the radio, and the Christmas tree stands in the Lower Commons. In addition to all these indications of the holiday season, the US Jazz Ensemble, directed by Mr. David Kay, will be hosting the annual Holiday Jingle Jam on December 5th from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the Upper Commons.

This year, the jazz band consists of 15 students: 3 freshmen, 5 sophomores, 2 juniors, and 5 seniors. Stated another way, there are 7 saxophone players, a trombone player, a guitarist, a bassist, a pianist, a vibist, and 3 trumpets. The jazz band will also be featuring Mr. Michael Starinsky on drums.

So what can you expect to hear? This year, the jazz band will be playing the classic funk song “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock, arranged by Mr. Kay. In this piece, you can expect an interesting and colorful twist to the classic that comes from both Mr. Kay’s modifications and the stylistic additions of each member of the band. In the song “Just a Little Cha Cha,” which is based on the song “Oye Commo Va” by Santana, expect to see a strong emphasis on the students’ ability to improvise on the spot over the changing chord tones. In addition, the jazz band will be playing “Con Alma” by Dizzie Gillespie, another classic song with a twist,” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” arranged by Ted Wilson.

Nehal Chigurupati, who has the position of Alto Saxophone II, expresses his excitement for this year’s show. “This year’s songs are exciting – they feature ‘color’ chords, or unique sound combinations that deviate from what people are used to listening to. The jam session also features songs that suddenly switch from a Latin even-eighth feel to a traditional swing, which is definitely something worth checking out.”

Sukhm Kang, sole guitarist, states, “There are lots of opportunities for solos this year, making it an even more exciting jam session.”

When asked about how the Jingle Jam differs from the annual holiday orchestra concert, Mr. Kay affirmed Sukhm’s statement. “One of the key features of this ensembles is that there are multiple opportunities for each student to improvise, which is a part of music-making that isn’t really included in classical music. In improvisation, you are essentially writing your own script. In classical music, you traditionally play music exactly as the composer wrote it.”

Mr. Kay continued to talk about the opportunity improvisation presents for the students. “For some people, [improvisation] can be petrifying. However, you have to keep in mind that the concept of ‘mistake’ is not relevant when improvising on the spot. You have to be willing to experiment, like in a lab, with different sound combinations, in order to get better. This opportunity to experiment is simply a wonderful aspect of the jazz band.”

Indeed, arranging a classic tune like “Chameleon” to fit the skill set of a high school jazz ensemble is a deceptively challenging task. In the same interview, Mr. Kay explains how he goes about taking up this challenge. “Basically, you have to take into account the capacities of the players, particularly for the brass players with regard to range. Various high school jazz ensembles can exhibit various levels of reading skill. I deliberately made a ‘Chameleon’ part of this year’s holiday concert—with all of its 16th-note rhythms—to challenge the band and mentally grapple these types of rhythms.”

Mr. Kay, Nehal, and especially Sukhm all feel very strongly about this year’s holiday concert and urge students to take a break from studying for the exams in order to attend it. Indeed, the evening of December 5th offers a great opportunity for students to support their peers while indulging in some refreshments, cookies, and—of course—authentic jazz.

 

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